Early winter heating assistance

Two of the agencies where Marquette County residents can turn for help with heating bills have no money to offer right now.

“It’s very difficult for us to have to say to individuals calling us that we have no help, we can be of no help at the moment,” AMCAB executive director Earl Hawn said.

The Marquette Salvation Army says they won’t have energy assistance funding available until January.

Hawn says AMCAB doesn’t know when, or even if, they’ll have any funding. “Michigan just went through significant changes this past spring,” he said. “The legislature adopted a new process by which they’re collecting funds and how they’re distributing those funds.”

St. Vincent de Paul does have funding at the moment. “We expect a huge demand for assistance,” Diocesan Council of Marquette executive director Laurie Schmit said. “I know that the state dates have changed on when utility assistance is available.”

The change in the state funding process will allow more money to reach families before they have their power or heat shut off, but the Michigan Department of Human Services won’t have any funding available until November 1st. In previous years, that funding would already have been available by now.

AMCAB and St. Vincent de Paul both say problems with utility bills won’t go away if you ignore them. “And the utility companies are very willing to work with people,” Schmit said. “Setting up payments plans, if they see you’re making a good-faith effort to work on paying that utility bill, they’re going to work with you.”

That should make it easier to get through the many months of another U.P. winter.